The Minnesota Golden Gophers return a lot of experience on the offensive side of the ball.
The receiver corp, however, is filled with question marks. There are several players vying for playing time at both wide receiver and tight end.
The Wide Receivers
Even though Eric Decker’s departure occurred in the middle of the season, little has been resolved to answer several questions surrounding the wide receivers.
Who will be Adam Weber or MarQueis Gray’s favorite target? Who will develop into a good complimentary receiver? Who will be a big-play threat? Who wil be a reliable receiver on third down to move the sticks?
A slew of receivers showed the ability to answer one or multiple questions, but inconsistency was problem.
Juniors Da’Jon McKnight and Brandon Green figure to be the starters.
McKnight is a big (6-3, 209) receiver with a lot of upside, but he is still learning the game of football. He played just one prep season of football at Dallas Skyline High School before coming to Minnesota. He could be the team’s leading receiver this season after finishing third on the team in receptions last season, behind Decker and Nick Tow-Arnett.
Green showed a good understanding of finding the holes in the zones. More consistency will make him a very third-down receiver and possession receiver to compliment McKnight.
The big-play threat in the unit will come from one of the two speedsters. Troy Stoudermire, a junior from Dallas, Texas, is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands. It is that skill that makes him one of the best kick returners in the country. Hayo Carpenter, a senior in his second year with the Gophers, was a highly recruited prospect that departed the College of the Canyons with all but one of the school’s receiving records.
Sophomore Bryant Allen is not as fast as Stoudermire and Carpenter, but is a playmaker with the ball in his hands. He enjoyed some success as a punt returner as a true freshman last season. He is a gifted athlete that played sparingly as a walk-on on the Gopher basketball team last Winter.
The rest of the receiving corp comes with no experience. Redshirt freshman Victor Keise figures to have the upper track of the other receivers to claim playing time. The other two redshirt freshmen are A.J. Barker, who walked-on last season, and Connor Cosgrove, who is a walk-on transfer from St. Cloud State.
The Gophers have three incoming freshmen, two of whom are on scholarship. Logan Hutton, who received a late offer on signing day, is the brother of former Gopher football player Lee. Cameron Wilson received a scholarship during the summer and signed recently. The incoming walk-on is C.J. Cesario, who was a standout sprinter in high school.
The Tight Ends
The tight end position is more congested than the receiver spot.
Junior Eric Lair waited patiently as he grew into a tight end and looks to be the early favorite to start. He is the most athletic tight end on the roster. He will be a valuable part of the Gopher passing game. He will stretch the middle of the field and will be a matchup problem for linebackers and safeties.
Lair will be pushed by Junior College transfer Tiree Eure. He is a 6-foot-7-inch, 255-pound dual-threat tight end. He is just as good as a blocker as he is as a receiver. He also will stretch the field.
The Gophers have two seniors Curtis Hughes and Collin McGarry. Neither has been a factor in the passing game. Hughes has more experience, but it is as a blocker in short-yardage situations.
The young tight ends are a pair of walk-ons. Sahr Ngekia came to Minnesota a year ago as a wide receiver from the Academy of Holy Angels. He moved to tight end last fall and redshirted. He is a cousing of former Gopher fullback Thomas Tapeh. The other walk-on is incoming freshman Alex Bisch.